During the winter months, many meeting destinations offer more affordable rates and flexible dates, giving planners a wider range of options when scheduling events. In addition, there are often winter-based activities and attractions that groups may not have the chance to experience later in the year, such as snowshoeing, ice skating, hockey games and other winter sports.
For anyone planning a winter meeting or event, here are five dynamic destinations to consider.
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Just a 90-minute drive from New York City and Philadelphia, the Pocono Mountains span four counties in northeast Pennsylvania with 2,400 square miles of rolling terrain, lush woodland and cascading waterfalls. This four-season destination offers a wide range of outdoor recreation and entertainment throughout the year, with 35 premier golf courses, 12 wineries and breweries, eight spas and over a dozen historic sites.
During the colder months, groups can relish the breathtaking snow-covered mountain landscape with activities like skiing, tubing, snowboarding and snowshoeing on over 185 different slopes and trails. For those hoping to escape the elements, there are also many cultural events at local theaters and performing arts centers, which include venues like the Applause Nightclub, the historic Sherman Theater, the Ritz Company Playhouse and the Casino Theatre Entertainment Centre.
Meeting planners can choose from several beautiful hotel and resort properties in the area with spacious meeting venues, first-rate amenities and on-site planning staff. Home to America’s largest indoor water park, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions plans to more than double the size of its convention center by the end of 2019, providing 18 additional meeting rooms for a total of 205,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Split Rock Resort and Golf Club offers 76,000 square feet of meeting and convention space with 10 meeting rooms and a 45,000-square-foot convention center. Other midsize meeting venues can be found at the Chateau Resort and Conference Center, the Bushkill Inn and Conference Center and the Skytop Lodge and Executive Conference Center.
Fort Collins, Colorado
No matter what time of year they visit, business travelers will find much to appreciate and explore within the charming city of Fort Collins, which embodies some of Colorado’s best cultural features: breathtaking mountain vistas, a diverse culinary scene and a historic downtown area. The scenic region is just an hour from Denver International Airport and Rocky Mountain National Park, making it easy to reach for meeting groups.
“One thing to remember about our destination is that we have 300 days of sunshine each year,” said Erik Barstow, director of sales at Visit Fort Collins. “More often than not, weather is not going to be an issue.”
The winter months are a wonderful time to visit the Fort Collins area. The city offers excellent snowshoeing opportunities in and around town, especially near the Horsetooth Reservoir and Poudre Canyon. Another popular local activity is fat biking, riding a bicycle specifically designed for snow trails. Planners can contact one of the outfitters or guides in town to organize a fat-biking adventure as an unforgettable after-hours excursion.
Based near downtown, the recently renovated Hilton Fort Collins is Fort Collins’ premier meeting facility and conference center; the center features over 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space as well as the only hotel rooms in town with mountain views. Likewise, the Fort Collins Marriott provides 17 meeting rooms with a total of 18,038 square feet of space.
After hours, groups can wander through the city’s lovely Old Town Square or tour some of the 20-plus craft breweries in the area. Other notable off-site venues include the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Fort Collins Lincoln Center and Block One Events.
Just hearing the name Cheyenne often evokes imagery of cowboys, rodeos and trains. Wyoming’s capital city is well known for its rich Western heritage, which comes to life through modern attractions like the Cheyenne Depot Museum, the Nelson Museum of the West and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. And thanks to the city’s proximity to natural treasures, such as Medicine Bow National Forest and Curt Gowdy State Park, visitors can also take advantage of world-class outdoor recreation like mountain biking and rock climbing.
“During the wintertime, we offer some really great opportunities for meeting groups to get out of the standard hotel and do something cool and memorable someplace that people are going to remember in three or four years,” said Jim Walter, director of sales and marketing at Visit Cheyenne.
Meeting planners will find all the amenities and services they need at the Little America Hotel and Resort Cheyenne, Wyoming’s largest convention hotel. The hotel offers more than 38,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, with capacity for up to 1,000 guests. This fall, a brand new 25,000-square-foot sports facility called the Beast opens in Cheyenne, providing a versatile space for both sporting and trade show events.
One of the most impressive after-hours event venues in Cheyenne is the new Grand Conservatory at the Cheyenne Botanical Gardens, which features a lush tropical plant collection with 34-foot-tall palm trees, a bonsai house and a Baroque-style orangery. For a taste of the Wild West, groups can pay a visit to the Terry Bison Ranch Resort and take a narrated train ride through a working bison ranch. The ranch also offers ATV tours, horseback riding and an on-site restaurant called the Senator’s Steakhouse.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Just a short drive from Chicago and Milwaukee in southeastern Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is characterized by lavish resorts and beautiful Gilded Age mansions surrounding a lake. Throughout the year, groups can take advantage of a wide range of activities and attractions, from musicals and magic shows to outdoor sports like skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing.
“Lake Geneva is a four-season recreation and resort destination,” said Julie Baron, public relations representative at Visit Geneva. “Some people might think that it’s only a place to go during the summer because of the word ‘lake,’ but there’s a lot of events and activities that people could piggyback their meeting on.”
The city frequently hosts conventions and events of all sizes, including the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship, a weeklong event that draws snow sculptors from all over the country to build incredible snow sculptures around the lake, some that stand nearly 10 feet tall.
Attendees can take their pick of accommodations in town, which range from quaint historic hotels to full-service resorts. The Abbey Resort, the only full-service resort right on the banks of Lake Geneva, caters to meeting groups with 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, 334 luxury guest rooms, a team-building program and an award-winning spa.
One of only five AAA four-diamond resorts in Wisconsin, Grand Geneva Resort and Spa features two championship golf courses, three restaurants and 62,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. Planners can use the on-site Adventure Center for after-hours activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, volleyball and disc golf. Other major resorts in the area include the Geneva National Resort and the Lake Lawn Resort.
In town, groups can explore the local theater scene with stops at exceptional venues like the Fireside Dinner Theatre, the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre and the Dancing Horses Theatre. To see some of the striking estates in the area, visitors can follow the 21-mile Geneva Shore Path, which travels right through the backyards of many historic mansions around the lake.
Toledo, Ohio, is home to a thriving downtown area with distinctive dining, shops, museums, artisan workshops and more, providing plenty of entertainment outlets for meeting groups during the colder months.
Planners can take advantage of several first-rate meeting facilities and hotel properties. Nestled in the heart of downtown, the SeaGate Convention Centre features 75,000 square feet of column-free meeting space with 19 meeting rooms. It is within a short drive of major attractions like the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art. Next door, the Park Inn by Radisson connects to the convention center through a skywalk and offers an additional 12,000 square feet of space.
Also based in downtown, the Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel holds up to 1,500 meeting attendees with 25,063 square feet of space and 13 event rooms. The Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center provides a more scenic facility on expansive, wooded grounds where guests can enjoy hiking, biking, birding and skiing.
After a meeting, attendees can unwind with a hockey game at the Huntington Center, catch a comedy show at the Funny Bone Comedy Club or try out a glassblowing class at one of Toledo’s many artisan glasswork shops. The Middlegrounds Metro Park is a 28-acre urban park on the Maumee River that features a 1.5-mile walking and cycling trail along the water, a peaceful retreat where visitors can stretch their legs and admire the waterfront. Near downtown, many groups enjoy an evening walk through Hensville, an urban entertainment district with bars, restaurants and live-music venues. Around the holidays, these bars and buildings are often adorned with streams of multicolored lights and other festive decor.
Other indoor attractions worth checking out are the Hollywood Casino Toledo, the Imagination Station science museum and Trapped Toledo, an escape-game attraction.